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Hamilton, Charles Donald (1916–2000)

by L. T. Carron

With the death of Charles Hamilton in Canberra last May, forestry in Australia has lost what l regard as the best combination of dendrologist and pedologist it has ever had, his professional capabilities further enhanced by artistic abilities over a wide range of media.

Beginning as a ‘cadet’ with the Western Australian Forestry Department in the late 1930s and following the usual university courses, he attended the Australian Forestry School in Canberra in 1939–1940, subsequently returning to W.A. as an Assistant Divisional officer with a range of duties at various places. He returned to Canberra in the late 1940s as a Research Officer in the Forestry and Timber Bureau in a number of aspects of silviculture.

He began part-time lecturing at the A.F.S. in forest botany, soils, establishment and the like in 1949, being formally transferred there as a Lecturer in 1951. With the takeover of the functions of the School by the Australian National University in 1965 and its establishment of an undergraduate Department of Forestry, he transferred there as Lecturer in Dendrology and Forest Soils, and remained there, as a Senior Lecturer, until his retirement, graduating with an M.Sc. in 1964 and a Ph.D. in 1972.

With his various appointments in research and lecturing, he extended what had been a personal interest, almost a hobby, into a professional passion of discovering, describing and illustrating, by photographs, colour slides and his own drawings and paintings, the geographical location of the major forest flora of this country and its intimate relationship with the soils on which it occurred. By his retirement, I am sure he had a greater knowledge and a more comprehensive record of this matter, so fundamental to professional forestry in this country, than had hitherto been amassed; nor, to my knowledge, has it since been surpassed. The more the tragedy then, to my mind, that with the pressure of his lecturing and supervising commitments (and despite the frequent admonition by his colleagues like myself to ‘put it all down before it’s too late!’), he was unable to render this uniquely vast and invaluable information into comprehensive and ‘readable’ form. One can only hope life ‘throws up’ another Charles Hamilton with similar passions and abilities; but given the ‘restructuring’ which the forestry of this country has undergone in recent times, I fear this is unlikely.

At the A.F.S. and in the early years of the Australian National University Department, ‘CD.’ enjoyed the respect, regard, and in many cases the affection, of several hundreds of students. His skills and nature made him an admirable companion on many of the long student field trips we took to the various States, and I always looked forward to his company on them. He had a long-standing interest in the I.F.A. It is perhaps particularly appropriate that this short tribute to and remembrance of him appears in its Newsletter—the first publication of which he, Jack Fielding and I launched in 1951.

He is survived by his wife Joyce, daughter Dianne, son-in-law Murray, and grand-children Justin and Elissa.

Original publication

  • IFA Newsletter, vol 41, no 5, October 2000, p 24

Additional Resources

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Citation details

L. T. Carron, 'Hamilton, Charles Donald (1916–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hamilton-charles-donald-18441/text30086, accessed 24 November 2017.

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